Magazine article The Spectator

Stress-Free Slopes

Magazine article The Spectator

Stress-Free Slopes

Article excerpt

Skiing with kids doesn't have to be daunting - or ruinously expensive, says Katherine Forster

Austria

One day in February each year, my three children come home from school in London, but go to sleep in Germany. We pile into our old Rover 75 Estate, take the tunnel to Calais, then drive through France, Belgium and the Netherlands before collapsing into bed in Aachen: five countries in an afternoon. The next day we cruise down the Autobahn to Munich or Salzburg, potter around the city and have an early night. The following morning we are on the ski slopes, hours before the plane gang arrive.

For a ten-night ski holiday in February half-term, the most expensive ski week of the year, our total spend is less than £3,500. For five people. That includes travel, accommodation, eight-day lift passes, ski lessons, equipment hire and food. That's around half the cost of a week's package holiday, and a fraction of what you'd spend in the Swiss Alps or the US.

We weren't always so frugal, though. My husband Nick and I met 20 years ago, skiing in the idyllic Swiss resort of Wengen, under the north face of the Eiger, where downhill alpine skiing was invented in the 1920s.

So without skiing my family wouldn't exist. Nick and I skied extensively throughout North America and Europe; it was our shared passion. Three children and a redundancy followed, so we stopped for ten years. Skiing is an expensive holiday, especially when there are five people to pay for. It seemed out of our reach, particularly since we wanted to ski when the snow was best (February generally), and I couldn't contemplate taking the children away during term time.

Yet with some research and planning, we manage to ski within our budget. The Sterling/Euro exchange being what it is, everyone will notice costs rising sharply this season. But you can still cut them dramatically.

Driving is convenient for us, and cheap. It takes around 13 hours in all from London to Austria, but French skiing is only around nine hours away. Our total travel costs are around £400 for five (including tunnel, diesel, tolls, plus breakdown cover).

Having a car also means we get fantastic deals on accommodation, since we can stay out of the resort. Prices tumble sharply within a mile, and sites such as booking.com and homeaway.co.uk make finding these places simple. This year we rented a gorgeous three-bedroom apartment in an Austrian chalet, overlooking a frozen lake and sheer-sided mountains; a scene straight out of a fairytale. …

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